UNL year-end roundup

I’m still working on a way to reply to comments while in Beijing, but in the meanwhile some thoughts on my first year at UNL…

In response to Younghusband’s post on what he gained from a year studying war in Canada, my thoughts on a year at UNL. Particularly, what I gained

Lady of tdaxp. True love. Worth everything.

Constructivism. I didn’t just throw this in to get a comment from Dr. Dan. No – that’s approach is amazingly, amazingly useful. Even though Political Scientists and Educational Psychologists never talk to each other, and thus don’t realize that the other field has “Constructivism” too, Constructivism is an incredibly powerful tool to pierce the magic cloud of existence. I see now how my happiest moments teaching, and my most successful moments teaching, tended to be the most constructivist moments teaching. Likewise, constructivism is the natural avenue for the introduction of Boydian cognition to Political Science. Have I said it is incredibly, incredibly useful?

Reading is not Comprehension. Younghusband’s remark that “” inspired this point. Certain professors — not those that teach constructively, by the way — have a habit of assigning a large amount of reading and then not discussing it. They defend themselves — and this is as true in freshman level classes as in graduate ones — by saying it’s the student’s responsibility to read the material.

That attitude is as true as it is useless.

Good instructors — those who want to pass on rational understanding of material, not just their political biases and particular fetishes — use a constructivist, 360-style educational regime, focusing on peer interaction, instructor-student interaction, and student-class interaction. This does not have to involve any less class reading, or any less impressive final projects. Indeed, the three projects I am most proud of — my profile of Coming Anarchy, Redefining the Gap, and my profile of Thomas P.M. Barnett, came from classes taught constructively.

My worst experience comes from the read-and-memorize mentality.

Real comprehension takes worse. Much of what I blogged this academic year — the series Liberal Education comes to mind in particular — were attempts to constructively comprehend course material. Because I have only 24 hours in a day, I would often find myself having to choose between comprehending course material or memorizing course material. As I want to understand what I am learning, I chose the former and not the latter.

I Dislike Bureaucracies. Ok, this wasn’t a surprise. But it’s still true. The Health Center’s foot dragging on an identity theft against me was the lowest blow, but few bureaucratic interactions are pleasant.

Podcasts. Not academic, but already mentioned.

I Really Enjoy Teaching. I knew this before, but this year drove this into my skull. Teaching is the only activity, besides blogging, where I feel better and more energized afterwards than before. For most of my day, I spend energy to acquire enjoyment, understanding, whatever. But teaching is unique in that I am consistently more energized and more ready to go when I leave the classroom than when I enter.

And, of course

Lady of tdaxp. I already mentioned her. But I love her. So that’s worth at least two mentions. 😉

The First Full Day

Below are some pictures of the day. The major non-shot event: a gigantic Billboard of Mount Rushmore. And when you’re finished with the pictures, a quick blog note: Catholicgauze was linked to by Little Green Footballs. Congrats!

Living in the Shadows (of Fog and a Hill)

Construction cranes in the distance

180 from the crane

A Traffic Nightmare

Be Like Washington. Buy Goods and/or Services.

Construction Boom

Alley Behind the Dwelling of the Grandparents of the Lady of tdaxp

Communist Flags Are (almost) Exclusively Limited to Foreign Hotels

The Only Other Communist Flags: The Moscow Beijing Commercial Exhibit Field

Fashion Billboards

Non-Ironic Chinese Writing

Are the Communists Good to Puppies?

Street Ping Pong

The Flags of Two Countries. One is a godless, statist regime facing economic stagnation and demographic decay. The other is the People’s Republic of China.

Redefining the Gap 2, Summary

Note: This is a selection from Redefining the Gap, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06


“The Pentagon’s New Map” is a proposed grand strategy for the United States. Originally developed for the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the wake of September 11th, it is leading to changes in America’s military. It proposes the use of preemption as a normal tool of statecraft, and thus has implications for what wars we fight, what weapon systems we buy, and where we die.

The Pentagon’s New Map (PNM) also includes a geopolitics, a world divided into an “Old Functioning Core,” a “New Functioning Core,” and a “Non-Integrating Gap.” Different strategies are advocated for these different realms, extending to everything from economics to warfare. However, while quantitative support for this geopolitics is hinted at, Barnett never discusses whether or not the measures he uses actually correlated with his categorization. Nor does he compare the validity of his cartographic schema to other systems.

This study will rectify that.

The literature review on this paper is organized like a funnel, or a pyramid. First, a brief introduction to geopolitics in given. Then, the work of the field’s founders – Kjellen, Mahan, Mackinder, Ratzel, and Spkyman – is discussed. A modern school, the study of the Global North and Global South, is next presented. After that, a continuation of that school known as critical geopolitics is addressed. Last, a form of critical geopolitics – the “New Map” theory itself – is described and then tested.

Also including are a research design, a bibliography, and an appendix. Following the literature review a research design is presented, which described the proposes tests, the independent variables, and the dependent variables. The research design repeatedly references an appendix which contains the computer code that shall convert raw data into meaningful numbers. Another appendix will also be attached, listing the final values for all the states surveyed. The bibliography shall contain all works cited in this text.

Redefining the Gap, a tdaxp series:
Redefining the Gap 1. Prologue
Redefining the Gap 2. Summary
Redefining the Gap 3. Introduction to Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 4. First Geopolitical Theories
Redefining the Gap 5. The North and the South
Redefining the Gap 6. Critical Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 7. The Pentagon’s New Map
Redefining the Gap 8. The Research Design
Redefining the Gap 9. Methods and Operationalizations
Redefining the Gap 10. Limitations and Conclusion
Redefining the Gap 11. Results
Redefining the Gap 12. Bibliography
Redefining the Gap 13. Appendix: Computer Code
Redefining the Gap 14. Appendix: National Codes

China Trip, So Far

Got into Beijing, via Tokyo-Narita, Minneapolis, and Omaha, just fine. The trip went pretty smoothly, but travel time (from arriving at the airport to arriving to these accomodations) of a day is wearing, no matter how its achieved. Japanese stewardesses are delightful, American ones considerably less so.

I wrote two posts on the plane, and they should be online eventually. China censors my blog, but not blogspirit administration, which means I can write posts but not comments. Hopefully, I can circumvent this soon.

CCTV featured a show of a man who can memorizing license plate numbers, and three plates were from South Dakota (one from Minnehaha County (Sioux Falls), one form Pennintgon County (Rapid City), and another one as well). Similar feats were studied as part of my creativity, talent, and expertise class. Then, a political show discussing Taiwan in terms Barnett could love.

While driving through Beijing last night, saw a total of three Chinese flags (two of which were at the very soviet Beijing, formerly Moscow, exhibitation field). One billboard prominently featured George Washington.

The accomodations are delightful, and my props to all who helped in this. Slept pretty well. Now off to a day’s adventure!

Zai jian!